La Nina Preparation

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Some say ignorance is bliss, but I doubt that’s actually true. Ignorance can easily lead to poor decisions that can mean unnecessary losses. Because losses to diseases, nematodes and other pests were a threat to all gardens last year, it’s not too early to prepare for next season. Thanks to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center important signs are already available to help in the decision process for garden management options in 2018.

La Niña conditions are predicted to continue (~65-75% chance) at least through the Northern Hemisphere this winter. A La Niña develops when sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are cooler than average for an extended period of time. The typical La Niña winter weather pattern brings the polar jet stream into Alaska, then dropping down into the central and eastern U.S. This path can bring below-normal temperatures into the northern U.S. Meanwhile, a La Niña winter typically leads to warmer and drier conditions in the southeastern US. While those folks who live for “fun in the sun” will doubtless enjoy the temporary conditions, those of us who focus on growing (and eating) fruits and vegetables, are expecting unwanted “guests” to arrive.

Very cold weather acts as a reset button from one growing season to the next. Freezing temperatures kill volunteer weeds that can harbor pests. Cold soil conditions check the reproduction and development of plant-parasitic nematodes. Wet conditions help the breakdown of debris where pests and disease pathogens can overwinter. Rather than a reset button, warmer and drier winters may be “party-on time” for pests.

As you look over the seed and garden catalogs that fill up your mailbox this season consider selecting resistant varieties for effective disease and pest management. There are a number of varieties now available with increased resistance to important diseases that, when used along with good garden management techniques, can protect your vegetable garden and perhaps reduce the need for the use of chemical pest control.

Preparations now in expectation of La Niña should help for next year. Gardeners at every level can look to N.C. Cooperative Extension in their county to get the information they need. Ignorance is not bliss, it is lack of knowledge and that leads to poor decisions. Good decisions lead to improved yields. Ben Franklin saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is still true.

If you would like to be added to the Home Hort List Serve for updates about what gardening classes and events are available in Lee County, please contact me at or call 919-775-5624.